Notes to Pilgrims #6
The Bible—unlike any other thought or belief system in the world—leaves no room for a dualism between body and soul, between material and immaterial, between phenomenal and noumenal. Every other school of thought either privileges ‘mind over matter’ or ‘matter over mind,’ always as an either/or. But Christianity is a both/and; neither patronizing one nor deriding the other but affirming that both are at the same time valuable and in need of rescue.
Eastern thought by-and-large regards ‘spirit’ as good while viewing ‘matter’ as evil. The narratival trajectory of Eastern thinking, then, is to escape the material world (which is deemed illusory and ephemeral) in order to attain to a certain incognitive consciousness or oneness with Ultimate Reality (which is pure spirit or mind). Such a view tends to lend itself to a minimization of the inherent value of material reality and provides no basis for concern beyond that which is material.
Modern (post-Kantian) Western thought on the other hand, generally holds to an opposite view to that of its oriental counterpart. Having mainly devolved itself from the God-focused thinking of Medieval Christendom, modern Western philosophy seems generally to have embraced a more materialist/naturalist theory of reality. Affirming only that which could be empirically perceived and/or sensorially observed, the phenomenal world (i.e. matter) is maintained while the noumenal (i.e. spirit) is banished to the place of unicorns, flying elephants, and other make-believe notions. Ultimately, such a view of reality threatens to reduce the universe into a clockwork machine devoid of meaning and absolutes; where only material facts and information truly matter.
Christianity in contrast, affirms the value of both the material as well as the immaterial. The Bible tells us that God created humans to possess both body and spirit. This is why the Incarnation as well as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ are central to the Christian faith. Were God merely concerned with the salvation of the soul, there would have been no need to become man. But precisely because humans are persons with bodies and spirits, Jesus—the substitute and mediator of sinners—had to be like them in every way, save for the sin. Jesus lived the perfect life and died the perfect death, so that those who are united to Him through faith might have their sins washed away and His merits credited to them. The resurrection assures believers that they too will one day be resurrected and that Christ’s final return will effect be to renew all of creation and to make all things even better. What this teaches Christians in the here and now is that we are to be agents of transformation and renewal not only in the proclamation of the gospel but also in our deep concern for and desire to material reality be renewed and redeemed by God’s grace for His glory.
—Pastor James (firstname.lastname@example.org)